Wanted: Capable employee. Responsibilities: Show up every day on time with a positive attitude. Do your best. Enrich our company culture in a way no one else but you can. Requirements: Developmental disability.
Where have you seen this job posting?
Why not? If job postings like this existed, lots more people with intellectual disabilities would be employed. Wake up, HR people.
Hiring individuals with disabilities isn’t that hard. But if you think standard hiring practices apply, think exactly the opposite.
In a round-hole work world, people with special needs are square pegs who can’t be force fit into conventional jobs. But if you square up a space for them in the workplace, they can fit in.
Just ask Doug Kelly, a vocational school teacher who year after year invents and lands jobs for all of his students with special needs. Having done it 100 times over, he’s worthy of a spot in the Inventors Hall of Fame.
The limitations of his students push him to be a clever job creator. Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and a host of scholars have written about how constraints drive creativity.
Mr. Kelly, however, gets his inspiration from Dr. Seuss.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!
Where others see disability, he spots capability. He imagines where each student might flourish in his large network of local business connections.
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
He focuses on one student at a time.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!
He opens minds of employers to think in new ways.
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut
He designs a job with a set of duties tailored for each student to succeed.
“Don’t give up! I believe in you all! A person’s a person, no matter how small!” – Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!
Greg, for example, with autism and a teddy-bear personality, has had a job shredding paper for more than a decade. His employer can count on him to handle every document with confidentiality and, as an added bonus, bring out the best in his coworkers, as only Greg can do.
Likewise, another Greg, with Down syndrome and a mile-wide smile, has a similar effect on coworkers and patrons at his job on the cleaning crew at the community recreation center. Spreading joy is not in his job description, but he can't help brighten everyone’s day every day anyway, because he’s Greg.
Greg and Greg have employers whose creativity and commitment are building caring cultures.
Just because standard jobs descriptions don’t typically fit persons with special needs is no excuse not to hire them. Our communities are filled with capable candidates who want a job more than anything.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax